Canada’s Charter of Rights

The “FATCA Lawsuit” against the Government of Canada is based largely on Canada’s Charter of Rights. Most people have heard of the Charter. Most mention the Charter, but few really understand the Charter.

Since you are all participants in this journey, I thought you might be interested in learning a bit more about the Charter.

The Government of Prime Minister Trudeau Gave Birth To The Charter

1. To learn about the birth of Canada’s Charter of Rights you might begin with media coverage here and then visit Canada’s website devoted to the Canadian Charter of Rights.

Interpreting the Charter – The Dickson (and Wilson) Court Raised The Charter


A Charter of Rights can be very powerful and be taken seriously or it can exist in name only. It can go either way. Shortly after the Charter of Rights became part of Canada’s Constitution, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau elevated  Justice Brian Dickson to the position of Chief Justice of Canada. Whether by accident or by design, under the guidance of Chief Justice Dickson, Canada’s Charter of Rights (to use the words of the late JJ Robinette) became “very helpful to Canadians”. Who could have known that, Justice Dickson (who started his legal career as a corporate commercial lawyer in Manitoba) would give the Charter substantive meaning. In any event, the appointment of Justice Dickson to the position of Chief Justice of Canada, may have resulted in Prime Minister Trudeau’s enduring legacy.

Although Justice Dickson exhibited extraordinary leadership he was joined by an able group of Associate Justices. These included Justice Antonio Lamer (who would later by appointed Chief Justice of Canada by Prime Minister Mulroney) and Justice Bertha Wilson (who I believe history may decide was Canada’s most important judge). Interestingly each of these three Justices was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada by Prime Minister Trudeau.

Although each Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada played a role in shaping Canada’s Charter of Rights, Justices Dickson, Lamer and Wilson were most influential in giving life and meaning to the Charter.

The Early Days of the Charter – The Most Influential Cases

For those who are interested I will post links to the early cases. If you are interested in the Charter, you will find the judgments interesting. I will post leading cases which interpret various sections of the Charter (including Sections 7, 8, 15 and S. 1).

R. v. Big M Drug Mart – A Charter Roadmap

But, I will begin with a case that provides the blueprint for how the Charter is to be interpreted.

Let’s start with the decision of Justice Dickson in R. v. Big M Drug Mart. You can read the original judgment here or the Wikipedia commentary here (or both). Justice Wilson’s judgment is independent of the judgment written by Justice Dickson.






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